COVID-19 | Finding Inspiration in Irish Women on St. Paddy’s Day
The craft beer industry ordinarily revels in St. Paddy’s Day celebrations—everyone is Irish on March 17. And on this St. Paddy’s Day, it behooves us all to remember the Irish’s resolve and endurance. Indeed, Irish and Irish Americans have routinely dealt with periods of enormous difficulty due to famine, disease, imperialism and racism. And we can especially look to Irish women for inspiration as they have shined brightly during the most challenging times, both on the Emerald Isle and in America. So, as we find the beer world, and the entire human race, at a crossroads, we can find inspiration in those Irish women. As Mother Jones once proclaimed: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has us indoors this St. Paddy’s day, here are four inspiring Irish women to celebrate the holiday. And, at the end, this Irish-American in Chicago will provide a little commentary and also mention a special beer that, while untraditional, captures the essence of Irish women’s tenacity and compassion — we can all use that right about now.
Ireland’s only female patron saint, and one who just happened to brew beer (or mead). While many know about her from the mythology that surrounds her life, her real-life proves just as praiseworthy. As an influential Abbess—the head of an abbey of nuns, she freed trafficked women, secured women’s property rights and offered nearly 15,000 women an opportunity to shed the shackles of domestic life.
Maria, a novelist, cared deeply about the poor. She didn’t treat them as a separate part of society but as human beings. And, Maria showed her respect for peasants by often making them the focus of her novels; she didn’t speak of their hardships, she portrayed them as real people with real stories. And, her compassion was impossible to miss, too. At the age of 80, and during the Great Famine, Maria distributed food door-to-door in Edgeworthstown (County Longford).
Although her brother and Irish Nationalist politician, Charles Stewart Parnell, may be more famous, Anna was equally accomplished, namely for fighting hard to obtain greater rights for Irish tenant farmers. She often showed a disregard for convention, especially when the convention involved gender roles. She was (along with her sister) integral in setting up the 1880s Ladies’ Land League. The funds Anna raised for the organization helped it expand to 500 branches countrywide and allowed for nearly 60,000 (British) pounds in relief funds to find its way to the farmers. The success of the women’s organization upset her brother to no end. For more, read on:
Jones left Country Cork, Ireland, as a child with her family during the Great Famine, first to Canada and then the U.S. As an adult, she lost her husband and all four of her children due to the 1867 yellow fever epidemic in Memphis. If that wasn’t enough, she lost everything she owned during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
The suffering she endured inspired her to fight for others, becoming a spokesperson and activist for the Labor Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was during her fights to abolish child labor and provide help to miners where she uttered her famous phrase: “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”
The Beer: Revolution Brewing Spirit of Revolt
Revolution in Chicago celebrates the revolutionary spirit. (One of the first beers produced by the brewery was a porter named Eugene, named for renowned labor activist Eugene Debs.) And, the brewery’s Spirit of Revolt is the product of the women for whom the brewery employs—68 in total. A group of those women came together to brew a beer for International Women’s Day, comprised of malts from woman-lead Weyermann Malting. The beer is described as “a unique dry-hop blend of Michigan grown Cascade, Cashmere, and Slovenian Styrian Fox hops, which add notes of citrus, pineapple, and melon features.” And, I can attest, it is quite tasty. Even better, proceeds (100%!) of the beer went to Connections for Abused Women and their Children (CAWC).
Let’s Have a Beer and Fight Like Hell Through This Crisis
As the craft beer industry faces its toughest challenge, and many breweries are now closed on this St. Paddy’s Day, finding inspiration in Irish women is a great choice. We can toast them with a Spirit of Revolt, a beer that further proves women are just as able as men to brew beer, and the beer also provides support to abused women—a little fight, and a little compassion.
We can’t fight the virus—all we can do is practice smart, social distancing to avoid spreading COVID-19. But, we can fight to make sure breweries don’t fail. We can fight with our politicians, banks, landlords, and others that try to provide extra hardships for small businesses. We can fight to make sure our neighbors are fed, and we can fight as a society to limit the sickness and deaths.
We know it works—the women of Ireland have shown us the way for centuries.
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One more reminder to check out Spirit of Revolt and the @ladies_oflogan pop-up market on Sunday at our Taproom (3340 N. Kedzie). From noon until 6 p.m., we're raising a pint (probably a couple) to women in beer. Come meet the incredible women who make up our community and support 40+ neighborhood small businesses while you're at it.